Proportion and Perspective


The Magic of Watercolor


Lesson Info

Proportion and Perspective

so now we're going to move on to proportion in perspective and again I'm not going to be able to teach you proportion in perspective to the degree that you probably will want to learn it in order to become a really good painter but we'll give you the fundamentals here this is thie learn proportions for painting figures this's that famous image of the vitruvian man I thought I was very discreet where I put my type on him this's the famous leonardo divinci vitruvian man who is basically the ideal proportion for a man which means he's eight heads tall now most people say that most human beings now that was the ideal at that time most human beings are more like seven heads tall but understanding proportions and using this concept will help you a lot when it comes to transferring figure drawings onto your paper never forget to consider for shortening though because for shortening will chain take all of those rules and thrown right out the door so one problem that beginner's make when they s...

tart drawing is they almost always make their heads hands and feet to small always it's a common common problem so if you I think if you keep this seven or eight heads concept in mind when you're doing your your standing drawings and that kind of thing you'll do a lot to help you get around that that will help a lot to remember that now heads have proportions also so the top of the forehead is one third of the way down to the top of that brow bone not necessarily where your eyebrows are but where the brow bone is right there which is another third down to the bottom of the nose and from the bottom of the nose to the bottom of the gin is another third now these air ideal proportions again this is this is the norm and this is what you sort of strive for and this is what you look for when you're going to paint a painting of somebody now of course there are people who have huge foreheads and I mean jay leno is his chin takes up half his face but for the most part these are the proportions that you consider when you're doing a portrait there's another one that you consider from the bottom of the nose to the top of the lip is about a third of the distance from the bottom of the nose to the chin and you can see that right here this is about a third that would be about another third and so that's another important distance and I mean I mentioned that before that area between the bottom of the nose and the top of the lip now there their perspectives that you have to deal with there's one point perspective two point perspective and three point perspective and three point perspective is pretty complicated and I'm not even going to go into that here one point perspective is where your for the most part basically looking at your object head on you're looking straight into it this is used like I say when you're looking at your object head on this is where the height and the width of your object or parallel to the picture plane and I'm counting the picture plane as the surface of your paper okay that would be the picture plane that would be this would be the surface of your paper so this is parallel to the picture plane and this is runs parallel to the picture plane as well so this is one point perspective now you can have one point perspective but still have like stand say you're standing on the side of a road and a car is coming from this one point distance and they pass you on the side that's still one point perspective even though you're not looking at something absolutely straight head on like this one here and then two point perspective is when you have on ly the height parallel to the picture plane but this side is going off in a different direction and this side is going off in a different direction and this is very common when you have buildings on corners and things like that all of that kind of stuff is two point perspective and perspective if you want to be a paint anything that is can realistically be seen and known for what it is perspective is important so this is a photograph that it perfectly illustrates one point perspective and this is one that illustrates two point perspective and you see images like this all the time you see them all the time that's one point there and then you had the vanishing point for this is somewhere out here in the vanishing point for that is off the screen so let's talk about good composition there's a really well known watercolor artist named tony couch and he has something he calls seven elements of design this is outlined in his book called watercolor you can do it it's a book that was published in nineteen eighty seven and he did a really good job of this and I said well I can't do it any better so I'm just going to go with tony counties explanations of this um seven elements of of design that makeup help make a good design one of a miss shape always have some sort of dominant shape in your painting and usually have an odd number of shapes you very you never see two objects side by side in a painting it's just hardly ever done I have seen it but it's hardly ever done it's creates a very boring painting for the most part you want to vary the sizes of your objects in your paintings they you don't want all the same size you're painting that's boring also you want if you have lines if you have directional lines in your painting you want one to be dominant you want a straight or curved doesn't matter just make sure the directional line that you have in your painting one of them is dominant you want to create a direction in your painting for the eye to follow so they're they're names for various compositions out there there's an s composition there's something called a cruciform there's an l composition there's a vertical composition there's a horizontal composition so you need some sort of direction for the eye to follow when they go throughout the painting vary your textures having different textures in your pain and creates interest and keeps things from being born color very important we've talked about color a lot but try to keep it simple if you put too many colors in to the the human eye they'll all start to just sort of blend in together and then value we've talked about value a lot also it's very very important to create drama and dimension in your paintings so this is a painting idea that basically has all of those things taken into consideration there's a dominant shape there's a roundness of shapes there we have the leaf shapes also the sizes all of the objects are different sized there's no one object that's the duplicated in size anywhere else there's a a line going through here that you can see and that line is visually uh apparent but there's also a flow through the painting this is sort of like an s curve see how that curves like that let me see if I get my mouth to work so there's so inflow in there that takes your eye through the painting there's obviously texture in the painting this is the one where I threw salt on the ground to make that sort of model texture and to create it looking like earth uh colors there's a you know various colors in here but some colors are more dominant than others and there's definite value for creating visual interest there's really dark value here dark values in the background light values on the on the flowers jumping forward so this had a little bit of everything in it and I think even though it's not that interesting a subject it's an interesting painting and that's interesting how you can get an interesting painting out of it somewhat boring subject now tony couch also talks about just certain things to keep in mind when you create a painting balances is very important if you have all of your center of interest over here on one side and nothing else anywhere else carrying it or holding it up then you have an imbalance in the painting and that could be a problem harmony in your painting elements your element should have some sort of harmony between them between their shapes and their colors in their direction gradation almost every painting has some kind of radiation and unless you do one of those flat painting said I used to talk about in the beginning of the class it's almost impossible in watercolor not to have some gradation but it's important to have it in there vary your elements throughout we talked about that a little bit dominance of one element over another and unity remember when I talked about repeating colors in a painting so that I had a red rose or a red flower up in one corner of the painting once but I didn't have any of that red anywhere else it through the entire painting off because I didn't bring the colors throughout and create a unity in the painting itself so this is a painting that seems to have all of those things it has some balance it's properly weighted there's there's no one part of the paint picture that makes it tilt in any one direction there's harmony of shapes and colors throughout these shapes are harmonious with these and with these shapes appear thes leaves air harmonious with the leaves over here there's great asian certainly there's variation in all the shite sizes and shapes that were showing there's good contrast we have dark darks and we have very light lights there's a dominance of shape color size and direction in all of these things that we just talked about and there's unity because there's repeated shapes throughout and repeated colors so this painting worked for me a lot now this was taken from a painting from a photograph but I rearranged the photograph I actually cut out this planter with this particular group of plants I cut all around that with a razor blade because they were somewhere over here in relation to the leaves and I wanted to come in close and crop it so I cut that all out moved it over taped it down and that's what I painted and that's how I ended up with this composition which I'm really happy with I think this one comes out came out really nice now one of the things I suggest doing is put your center of interest off center now this's an okay picture and she looks pretty cute sitting there in the middle of the picture but it's ever so much more interesting cropping her and moving her off to the side and the fact that she's looking off decide creates um really sort of interest you know it's like a teaser it's like oh my goodness what's she looking at I think this this portion over here is so much more interesting than the other side and that the ways to make your center of interest really stand out you khun grey out the background behind him you can give them more contrast in certain areas like certain areas of the face or their clothes you can give the front center of interest more color whereas the rest of it you just sort of mute out you can make this sharp focus like we did on this painting that we started up the girl and had her background be very blurred in the background there just lots of things you can do to create your center of interest really being the center of interest now this is what this thing right here is a drawing of the principal called the rule of thirds which has been around for a very long time and basically what they say is you don't cut you don't put your center of interest right in the centre what you do is you divide your paper into thirds in both directions its third across and three down and where these lines intersect is where you can effectively put your center of interest and this really works well it really does I don't know why it works or how it works but it really does work and it's been right I mean some of the ancient you know master's painted using this principle so it's been around a really long time now there's another principle for composition as well and that's this one which is a different kind of way to lay out your paper and they basically say that if you draw these lines in half and connect them diagonally then the areas defined here also make for good placements of centers of interest and I agree with that but it's still placing these things lt's right smack dab in the middle of the paper and it's still placing these things sort of in the middle of the paper but it still makes for an interesting composition it's not a rule of third but it's it's another a second variation on how you can compose your painting and it works also works now sometimes putting your image smack dab in the center of the paper works this was painted by a girlfriend of mine named betty burton it's called summer star and it's because her center of interest is a cz an interesting subject you can get lost in that you can get lost in the way that she painted it and the way that she created her leaves supporting it all around the outside for some reason this painting works I wouldn't suggest it all the time but it worked for betty and this one now a really common problem for beginners is to take a really boring subject and put it smack dab in the center of the paper and that you don't want to do now this is a painting that I did that again was pretty centred it's pretty much centered but what I did to save this painting was I put egg I painted object edges off the side of the painting so that things were crocked thes leaves were cropped off thes leaves were crossed this flower up at the top was cropped and that helped keep this painting from just being dead center and it sort of saved this painting and this actually ended up being one of my favorite paintings but paint your objects off your paper edge is another thing you don't want to do is but your objects right next to each other in other words if you have to round balls you don't want their absolute edges touching each other you should create overlaps as much as possible another thing you want to do is you want to keep your foreground simple and you don't want your foreground to compete with your center of interest and obviously my center of interest was all of this that was happening back here so I didn't put any colors or do anything major up here I just created a silhouette and keep that kept the foreground simple so that there wouldn't be any competition always place your highs horizon above or below the centre line you will hardly ever see a horizon line running smack dab across the centre of the paper so put it someplace else I to me the sky obviously was the most interesting part of this painting so I placed the sky had the most visual interest and this and the horizon was well below the central line you don't want to split your paper and half either top to bottom or left to right and that goes back to the rule of thirds crop closer than you would think now this is this was this image that I painted from this flower was just sort of picture was taken much further back all of those fat flower was completely contained in the photograph and I went in and cropped it in very close and I think it really helped a lot I mean I tend to like cropped in clothes images anyway it's one of the things that I see beginners do though is they stand back and they don't think about coming in close so that's why I put this slide and always crop closer than you would think and I did the same thing with this one this was a completely self contained flower in the photograph and I just zoomed in on it let edges fall off just cropped it had this crop off up top and another reason you want to do this is it makes your backgrounds a lot easier to paint if I hadn't put this leaf here and I wanted to create this background and create this background I would have had to paint them all at the same time and this was a fairly good sized watercolor and I wouldn't have been able to get over here while it was still wet I'd still be painting over here this would drive by the time I got to it and I would have a problem on my hands so you also do it logistically to help you in your painting you put objects off the edge so that you can separate your painting into different areas that are more manageable now I put this image in because this is sort of a typical you know the way a lot of people take photographs and I mean it's a good photograph but this center of images smack dab in the middle of the image and so my suggestion and the exercises was to crop this photo in a different way and then do a contra drawing of it so what I did I went ahead and cropped this for the people in the class and this is a much more interesting crop to me it takes our center of interest it puts it in one of those areas that works well in the rule of thirds the bird is looking off in the direction so you know this isn't not what ted nuttall did where he probably would have put the bird over here looking off in that direction but this is a very much more interesting crop so I would suggest that we take out our pencils and just do a contour drawing of this bird real quick we won't take a long time to do this and you can do it on your scratch paper that I passed out earlier too and I'm not going to bother to grid this I'm just going to start drawing although I actually I did gritted on my little sample sheet well I greeted it so let's get it won't take very long okay now I'm going to do sort of the way I normally draw which is too throw a little bit faster you eventually get to where you're pretty adept you can follow your your lines your eye gets to where it can do a good job of sort of following what's happening in your hand starts stood just pay attention to where you're going and you just get to where you sort of know what you're doing but I will tell you it will definitely take practice but I think you can see what I mean drawing is a skill in and of itself and I when I I was preparing this class this was actually one of the hardest classes for me to prepare because there's so much to know about it and being a good drawer can really help immeasurably in your ability to paint really beautiful paintings and there's some artists out there that you know I could just stare at their drawing all day because it's just so magnificent so it's definitely a skill if you want to become a good artist to cultivate it helps a lot ok that sort of comes out there this comes in and I like to do the type of line where I definitely put in my points for my change of direction now my printer start I started doing weird things when I printed out my copy of this but that's good enough and try to do it pretty quickly if you can you get up an interesting line quality if you do you see I've already noticed that I put this tree over to teo too close to the bird but it doesn't matter nobody knows what it's supposed to be that's the nice thing about painting nobody knows what you're looking at and unless you're doing a portrait of someone it really doesn't matter so then I can go back in a race this part and there's the bird tail and he looks ok so are there any questions there's one question from zegna online and she said you did a neat thing that you like that you'd like to hear more about drawing the negative space between the tree branches oh yeah yeah um and negative painting is something that's very effective in watercolors negative painting and negative drawing and a lot of shapes are defined using negative painting and that's not where you go in and you paint the branch what you do is you go in and you paint the space behind the branch and that could be very very effective in painting and I would cultivate being able to see when you khun do that and when you shouldn't do it and there's some paintings I if you remember the painting that I showed last week of the man with the beard and it was painted by stan miller and he had the glasses and his beard was completely negative painted I mean all of the strands of white hair and his beard and everything were completely negative painted and it was just striking absolutely striking and so definitely cultivate that but again that goes back to strategy you have to figure out where you're going to do that why you're going to do it and how you're going to do it I don't know if I answered the question did I answer that question good enough well you certainly gave them enough food for thought that's for sure good well it's sometimes easier to grab her negative space in the negative space has distinctive shapes right absolutely absolutely and that's what that's what all the practice of all this is all about is learning to figure out what your distinctive shapes are what you want to put in what you what you don't want to put in and you just you just paint to figure that all out you just practise it doesn't come that easily for some and it comes really easily for others but you'll never know until you just get in and do it so this drawing really is not perfect not by any stretch of the imagination but like I say it doesn't matter it really doesn't matter because nobody knows what it's supposed to be it's ending up being a fairly interesting composition and I think I'm going to be happy with it so that's what this is really all about just keep doing it and when you see something that you don't like erase it put something else in just keep practicing now some people hold their pencil way up close I suggest that you don't do that you know like I hold a pencil up here when I'm writing my name but I don't draw that way I hold it a little bit further back it gets a little more ease and flow in the pencil and it gets your hand out of the way so you can see where you are which helps but you don't need to hold your pencil up close you do want to hold it in such a way that it's comfortable you don't want your hand to get cramped you don't want you know paying when you're drawing you have to be hold it in a comfortable way and that's very important so this might be all I even do on this drawing although maybe I'll go in and put in some of the shadows on the bird yeah because those shadows are important on the bird and it's good to remind yourself toe leave them they're one of the things that it's important to do in a drawing is is if there are places that are really really important and they're going to make a difference in the content of your painting you might want to make sure you draw the damien because otherwise it's so easy I cannot tell you how many times I've started painting a painting and I would just get so lost in it I would completely forget where I wass and I'd be painting and I'd go oh my goodness I meant to lead that white I meant not to paint that and I just painted right over it so it's very important that if if something is crucial to the painting like I think those shadows are the highlights on the bird are important to make sure you draw them in so that you don't paint overthe um okay that's probably about all I would do might put in a couple of other branches and twigs over here and stuff like that but that would be you know are we that would be pretty close to what I would do I don't mean it you just don't need much more detail than that and you can always go in and add those later if their twigs in there that you feel would help a lot you khun paint them in dark or you can lift them out later so that's not you don't have to get that fine with your detail and then I would just go in and race my grid lines

Class Description

Join Molly Murrah for a fun, 5-week watercolor class for beginners. Learn about color, papers, brushes, drawing and composition, as well as many great painting techniques that will get you working and playing with watercolors!


Susan Mueller

Absolutely loved this class! I've been fiddling with watercolor for the last year, but have never really taken any art classes. This was the perfect intro level class in so many ways, covering basic principles of color, composition, etc. - and always in a warm, encouraging atmosphere. I learned so much about watercolor as a medium, and I would recommend this to anyone interested in getting involved with it. Would love to take a class with Molly again!

Linda Berg

Molly is captivating! Her soothing voice exudes her love of watercolour painting! She is very organized and knows how to paint with watercolours and how to teach it as well. Not all painters can teach... I was drawn into her 'teachings', loved listening to her wealth of knowledge, and signed up for her course. Oh, I recommend it totally!